Tag Archives: Mary Beth

end of the trip

The trip was great but by the time we got home from the Sistergold concert and Heidelberg, we were toasted. We mostly laid low at Wilfried and Elisabeth’s house for a day and a half. Mary was interested in the casinos in Baden Baden but when we looked into the details it turned out they had a dress code and a high buy in and the games didn’t start until late in the day – or evening in one case.

No one else was as interested as Mary so that didn’t happen. We were getting ready to go over there Monday and at least walk around a bit but Wilfried and Elisabeth had an unexpected visitor, an elderly man with a shock of white hair. Naturally, beers were brought out and we Americans were amused at his torrent of conversation. I don’t remember what all he was talking about, but he was sure passionate. Wilfried explained later that he’s some kind of artist and collector.

Mercedes has a factory in Rastatt, so after our visitor left we went to take a tour there, then Wilfried took us around the Zentrum. Of course, there’s a schloss.We ate ice cream. Later, we walked over to Schloss Favorite, which is literally 5 minutes from Wilfried’s front door. This place has lovely grounds to go along with the structure.

 

Tuesday we had to leave at noon, but in the morning we went out for a walk through the neighborhood. The open field at the back of Wilfried and Elisabeth’s house has been set up for development: streets and utilities but no houses yet. In a half an hour leisurely walking, we walked around the whole village. The village is called Förch and one of several small villages tied administratively into the larger town of Rastatt.Perhaps I should mention that Elisabeth was unable to accompany us on most of our touring around because she had an operation on her foot and could not walk. She always had something good for us when we came back to her house. Danke schön, Elisabeth!

At noon, we loaded our bags into Wilfried’s car, hugged Elisabeth and headed north. Deutsche Bahn had a major problem in Rastatt where the ground below some train tracks sank on Sunday, stranding thousands of people. Wilfried wasn’t sure how possible it would be for us to get a train to Frankfurt from Rastatt so he drove us to the Karlsruhe Hbf.

There finally we had to say auf wiedersehen to our tour guide, cousin and friend Wilfried. Words can not express my gratitude for everything you did for Mary and me this past two weeks. His only request: that we come back and stay longer! Mit viel Vergnügen!

Heidelberg

On our way back to Rastatt on Sunday, we stopped at Heidelberg. It was another place I had been to in 1982 and also in 1976 with the Blue Saints.

The AltStadt along the Neckar River with the huge castle dominating above is a natural for tourists, and we did all the usual things. We parked, walked along the river to the Alte Brücke . . .

. . . and thence into the Old Town.

From there it was up more stairs – Mary never let us forget how many steps there were at the Cologne Cathedral: 533! – to the Schloss. We walked around the lovely gardens and toured the interior.

The interior featured a German Pharmacy museum and the world’s largest wine cask. After descending we had lunch at Vetter im Schoneck. Established 1987. Really. I checked the coaster twice. Vetter’s is the home of the world’s strongest beer: 33% alcohol! Actually, Wilfried told us that figure is from an intermediate stage. The finished brew is 10.5%, strong enough for me to take a miss. We had Bavarian meatloaf which was more like Spam than not.

On our way home, we passed the entrance to the tunnel Deutsche Bahn is building for the IC trains under Rastatt. More on that in my next post.

Sistergold

Very high on Mary’s list of things she wanted to do was to see the German saxophone group Sistergold. Wilfried had helped her to contact them and got tickets for thier concert in a little town called Homberg.

Homberg is about a three hour drive north of Baden Baden, where we were at about 3:30 Saturday afternoon. Wilfried had taken us to a tour of the Baden Baden Festspielhaus (Opera House). It was supposed to be only 75 minutes but it had dragged on and at the end there was a little scene with a man who had had to go to the rest room and lost track of the rest of the group. He was pissed that he’d gotten left and was having it out with the tour guide. The rest of us were left standing around in the lobby. Wilfried took action and started trying doors to get us out. This succeeded and we were off.

We were originally hoping to get to Homberg in time for dinner but that was going a-glimmering. Luckily, Wilfried had had the foresight to bring some rolls and sausages which we ate at a rest stop. In the end, we got to Homberg in time to get settled in our hotel and arrive at the Stadthalle by around 7:30. Dinner would have to wait.

We had a glass of wine while the audience filled in. The Stadthalle was small, like a jr high school MP room. There was a stage. We were seated on plastic chairs around tables with little decorations. Pretty small time, but everyone was nice. Beer and wine and snacks were for sale. Maybe 100 in attendance.

Here’s a view out back of the Stadthalle. The Ohm River is actually beneath the line of trees in the foreground.

Sistergold is 4 women playing soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. They started the concert by walking in from the back of the hall. They played jazz, funk, classical, and pop styles with little dance moves and good audience engagement. They were great! They did three encores and didn’t stop until a quarter to 11 (8 o’clock start).

Afterwards, they came out to talk and sign autographs (and sell CDs) and Mary jumped in. Three of the four spoke English pretty well. They chatted with us for a good half an hour. Towards the end, the people who ran the building were trying to close up. We took a picture and reluctantly said good night.

Then it was, what are we going to do for dinner? It was nearly 11:30. Wilfried asked some locals what was likely to be open for dinner that late in town and was met by blank looks. Hmmm.

We cruised the town. There was something like a night club open but no food. We stopped at a gas station. The attendant there was closing but suggested fast food at the autobahn about 5 miles away. Failing that (we all said no), perhaps Marburg. Thirty minutes away.

Wilfried set out following his GPS (I guess, I was in the back seat, resigned to my fate). Along country roads and through villages in the darkness we went. Suddenly there was a blast of light. An American ’50’s style diner in the middle of the German countryside! What? About 50 neon signs and the front end of a ’57 Buick with its headlights on adorned the front. Best of all, the kitchen was still open!

We had burgers and fries. I had a Corona (with lime). It was great! We got back to the hotel at 1:30. Wilfried’s key didn’t work and he had to break the door open. No one with the hotel was awake.

Mary is going to try to figure out how to bring Sistergold to the US. They are willing but won’t do it for free so she has some fundraising to do.

showing pictures

Mary Beth and I had our first picture showing yesterday. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped but it was still good for Mom & Dad and Rose to see all of our pictures and hear our stories.

I forgot to bring my packet of souvenirs including my journal even though it was sitting right by my front door. Mary and Jim flew down but took a relaxed approach in the morning so they didn’t arrive at Palo Alto until about noon. Mom had the lunch spread ready to go when we got there so we all dug in and had some good visiting. No one was in a hurry.

I think it was around 2 that we all got up and got serious about showing our pictures. I had loaded mine onto my laptop because it had an HDMI output that I knew I could plug into Mom and Dad’s big TV. Mary had hers on her iPad and also on Google Drive.

The first problem was that the computer wouldn’t talk to the TV. I was using an HDMI cable that I had that I was sure I had used before. I fiddled around with all kinds of settings but nothing worked. Mary wondered if the USB  on the TV would take a connection to her iPad. No, that was no good. The input selector didn’t even have USB. What’s the USB for???

Then I saw another HDMI cable under the TV. That worked! Yay!

Then I had the issue of figuring out what program to use to show the images. The laptop was running Windows 10 but it’s setup to be my work machine so I hadn’t used it to show pictures before. I thought I could just go to the file manager and select the folder and start the slideshow. Not so fast, pardner! I finally got a program going that showed the images from each folder only. I had to exit the program ( I don’t remember what it was called) each time I finished a folder – and I have many – then reselect a new folder and start again. Tedious.

Of course I showed every picture I took, including pictures of flowers and multiple images of essentially the same thing at different exposures. I think everyone nodded off at one point or another.

Finally it was time for Mary to show her pictures. The TV was working well so she logged onto Google Drive on my computer and started showing her pictures. But the videos didn’t work. There was a message about restarting ‘your device’ to make them work. Never mind, now we’re getting short of time.

Mary and Jim had to time their activities so that they could be back on the ground in Auburn while there was still daylight. When the issue came up, Mary was about halfway through her pictures and it was 5:30 already. They needed to leave by 6. Oh, too bad about dinner! Then some of my images that were on Google Drive started showing up along with Mary’s. What?? She soldiered on and we got through at 6 exactly. Rose and I had picked them up on our way down but we wanted dinner so I ran Mary and Jim up to PAO and came back. 40 minutes round trip.

The four of us had a nice dinner on the patio and we left a little after 8 but the whole day had seemed way more rushed than I liked. Teresa is going to want to see everything as will Jane so we’ll likely have a chance to do it again. On our drive to the airport, I suggested to Mary that we consolidate our better pictures on Google Drive in a special folder for showing. I don’t know what we can do about the videos. There’s work to do.

I left the original HDMI cable in the trash.

Friedrichshafen

Friedrichshafen is a city on the Bodensee, which English speakers call Lake Constance. Bodensee forms part of the border between Germany and Switzerland. I’ve always found it interesting how place names can change so much from one language to another. Paris is always Paris, but in France, London is Londrés.

Anyway, Bodensee sounds cooler to me so that’s what I’ll use.

Our original plans for sightseeing in the Munich (München) neighborhood included going to see Mad Ludwig’s castle at Neuschwanstein. At Marlies’ house, Mary Sullivan told us the story of her and Tom’s visit there the week before. It was a nightmare of trains, buses & walking that took up more than 12 hours. The tour of the interior of the castle was an hour. She didn’t think it was really worth it with so many other things to see.

While we were mulling that information, Marlies told us of a flight she took over the Bodensee in a Zeppelin and how awesome that was. It was expensive but seemed much more interesting to me. I had been harboring hopes of going back to Bodensee anyway. Mary Beth said she’s seen the world from 1000 feet but I said not Bodensee and the Alps.

So she signed on. We made the reservation for Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon as we were walking to the hotel in Muncih, Mary’s phone rang. It was the Zeppelin people. Thursday’s flight was cancelled due to bad weather. Would we like to reschedule for Friday morning? Yes!

OK, that’s fine. We can go to the Zeppelin Museum in the afternoon, take the flight in the morning, and get the train to Baden Baden in the afternoon. We’ll be at Wilfried’s before dinner time.

When we arrived in Friedrichshafen at about noon on Thursday, we could see why the flight had been cancelled. There was a heavy drizzle and the clouds were so low we could barely see the water of the lake from a block away. The Alps on the other side? Forget it! And the Zeppelin people called again. The Friday morning flight was cancelled. We were sad but not surprised. You wouldn’t have been able to see anything.

At the hotel, we got a map of the town and I noticed another air-related museum. Claude Dornier was a German aircraft designer of the middle 20th Century based near Friedrichshafen. His museum was near the airport, a short train ride away. We decided to go there first and go to the Zeppelin Museum the next morning. Actually, we looked in on the Zeppelin Museum after lunch. It’s right on the water in the Old Town area of Friedrichshafen. It was mobbed. It made sense. The weather was bad and everyone wanted to be inside. We took the train to the other museum.

For dinner, we went back to the promenade along the lake and found a restaurant with 2nd floor tables overlooking the lake. The clouds had lifted somewhat and we could see the setting sun shining through the gaps lighting up the Alps. Sehr schön, as they say in Germany.

Sadly, I had left my camera in the hotel room. Mary got some pictures but I don’t have copies yet. Stay tuned!

In the morning we went to the much-less-crowded Zeppelin Museum. Zeppelin, of course, was the airship builder of the early 20th Century. We call them blimps but the craft Zeppelin built were much more than that. Zeppelins had regularly scheduled routes from Germany to the US, to South America and all over Europe in the 1920’s.

The best known example of a Zeppelin is the Hindenburg. The largest such craft ever built, it caught fire and burned in 1937 as it was docking in New Jersey. At the museum, they have a full sized replica of part of the Hindenburg. They also had a smaller display of the Hindenburg in comparison to other famous large aircraft. The Hindenburg dwarfed them all.

Sorry no photo of the smaller scale models. Maybe Mary has one . . .

When we got out of the museum about 11:30, practically the first thing we saw was the new, tourist, Zeppelin flying over Friedrichshafen. I guess the clouds lifted enough. Here’s Mary watching it fly away.

Oh well, maybe next time!

Perhaps I should have known. My other visit to Bodensee was in January 1982. We stayed in Lindau, just a little east of Friedrichshafen, which has a famously beautiful harbor. Visibility was poor that time too.

Munich

Wednesday we bid farewell to the Mosel River valley. Wilfried took us through the new tunnel under Burg Landshut and out into the Hunsrück en route to Mannheim and a train to Munich.

I sat in the back seat with Mary driving and Wilfried narrating history and tried to keep track of the towns and highways we went on. Morbach, Birkenfeld, and onto the autobahn east through Kaiserslautern. There was some confusion as to whether we should head for Karlsruhe or Mannheim. Mannheim won as the train there was a little later even though it was out of Wilfried’s way somewhat.

We noted the presence of the large US hospital at Landstuhl as well as the Ramstein air base. Somewhere around Neuleiningen the hills and forest of the Hunsrück opened up to the wide Rhine River valley.

At the Mannheim Hbf, we said our goodbyes and heartfelt thanks to Wilfried and committed ourselves to the German train system. The first train we didn’t do so well: all the seats were taken and we didn’t feel like hauling our large bags through the whole train to find a seat. We only had to get to Stuttgart, about 40 minutes, before we had a transfer, so we stood in the doorway at the end of the car.

After that it was much better. We had seats and I amused myself timing the kilometer posts and calculating our speed. 27 seconds per kilometer equals about 150 kph or about 95 mph. Pretty fast and very smooth.

In Munich, we got situated in our hotel then headed out to find the Marianplatz and the animated glockenspiel. It was due to ring at 5 pm and we had about 45 minutes. As it turned out, we needed every bit of that as I misread the map and took us down a street at right angles to the Platz. We saw the dancing figures, along with about 1000 other tourists, pretty much all of whom had their cell phones held out over their heads recording the event. People actually started leaving before it was over.

 

We didn’t, but felt the need for sustenance. We hadn’t really gotten lunch with all our train changing. On the other hand, Andreas had texted us inviting us for dinner at 6:30. Solution: ice cream!

Thus buoyed, we walked to our dinner rendezvous. We later figured it was just under 3 km from Marienplatz to the restaurant. Our hotel was about halfway in between so our days’ walking ended up being 6 or 7 km by the time we were done.

Andreas had told us Julia was under the weather, so when I first saw her, in her stroller with a pacifier in her mouth and a hood over her head, I thought this might be a bad idea. A few tickle overtures, however, opened the gates and before long she was walking along the street holding my hand.

At the restaurant, the food was slow in coming and Julia began exploring. There was no one seated near us, so she pulled silverware off adjacent tables, and messed with the decorations in the window alcoves.

I tried a distraction. I asked her if she wanted to come outside with me. She did! We went outside and walked down the street a ways. I pointed out things in my simple German: Bicycle! Motorcycle! At the corner drugstore (luckily closed) I lifted her up onto the window sill and helped her jump down to the sidewalk. Now her eyes were sparkling!

After dinner, Luisa had to leave as she was taking a 5 am train to Austria the next morning. The rest of us stopped down the street at a gelato place. Then it was time for all of us to say goodbye. Mary and I walked back to the hotel. We were in bed by 10.

Just for fun, here’s my photo of Marienplatz from my visit in January 1982:

Leni

Leni Herges was born in Cologne, Germany on August 4, 1917. According to my copy of Family Tree Maker, she is the wife of my 2nd cousin once removed. FTM says Wilfried, her son, is my 3rd cousin. Wilfried’s great-grandfather and my great grandfather were brothers. I guess you could just as easily say that our great-great grandfather was the same person

It’s very confusing so I call everyone there my cousins. Mary Beth and I went to Germany to celebrate Leni’s 100th birthday. When I got to her house, and in her presence, I was tongue-tied. What do you say to a 100 year old person when you can speak their language? I have a little German but it deserts me when the pressure is on.

Leni was like a Sphinx. She didn’t say much to anyone. Her daughter Marlies (also my 3rd cousin!) keeps an eagle eye on her and whisked her away to her room if she showed any signs of being tired.

Now it’s funny: I have a picture in my mind’s eye of her sitting at the table with her eyes closed or otherwise disinterested, but in all the pictures I can find of her from this trip she looks pretty lively. Here’s a nice picture of a group of us:

There is one picture from the dinner that’s along the lines of what I’m talking about. As you might imagine, Leni gets tired as the day goes on. Mary and I had gotten to her house in the afternoon and there were a bunch of people there, all talking and drinking wine. Then, to get to the dinner, Marlies had hired a limo to take the immediate family. That was a scene getting everyone in.

At the other end, everyone is getting out and of course, we have to get a picture.

Then, inside to the dining room. More wine, appetizers, singing of songs (evidently the German version of Happy Birthday, which I never found out what it’s called) and finally, a speech. Wolfgang happens to be the Burgermeister of Berkastel-Kues and a relation of Leni through her father’s family. He went on for several minutes (in German, of course). It was very respectful and at times funny, but Wilfried captured this while Wolfgang was speaking.

Checked out.

The next morning some of us gathered again at Marlies’ before heading our separate ways. I happened to be looking at Leni when Julia came in. Julia is Leni’s great-granddaughter and 2-1/2 years old. Leni lit up when she saw her and gave her a big hug.

Hertzliche Gebürtstag, Leni, and many happy returns!

the plan

When Mary and I started getting serious this spring about our trip to Germany, we naturally tried to think about what to do and see there. Attending Leni’s party was our principle reason, of course, and we knew we had to visit our ancestral home of Bernkastel. Mary had, with the help of Wilfried, gotten tickets to see the saxophone group Sistergold so we were doing that.

Beyond that it was open. She had heard of Neuschwantein so she wanted to see that. Cologne was close to where the party was so a trip to the cathedral was pretty easy. While we were there I wanted to see the German-Roman Museum which is right next to the Dom.

Munich is where our cousin Andreas lives so we definitely wanted to visit there. I had fond memories of my honeymoon trip up the Rhine through Freiburg and along the Bodensee.

In the end we sort of punted. We knew we would be in Odendorf the first couple of days for the party and we thought we could see how things were and talk to our German relatives about what was practical and interesting in the time we had. Our cousin Mary Sullivan had been to Neuschwanstein the week before we arrived and told us it was expensive and very crowded. She didn’t say don’t go but it certainly put a crimp in the idea.

By Sunday, (the party had been Friday night) everyone was heading to their separate homes. Mary and Tom had been in Germany and France already three weeks and were ready to go home. Wilfried packed Mary Beth and I into his car and we headed for Bernkastel. Along the way we discussed plans.

As we neared the Mosel River Valley, he stopped in the village of Klausen hoping for an open restaurant so we could eat lunch. We were either too late or too early for a Sunday, but he had a story about the church there so we stayed and looked around. Then we were off again and soon got our first sight of the Mosel.

By the time we got to Kues, we were pretty hungry but it was 5 pm and he had already reserved a spot for dinner at 7. We settled for a snack and a beer before getting settled in Leni’s house. A quick walk around town and a drive up to the Panorama Restaurant in the neighboring village of Graach.

After we finished, we tarried to watch the sun go down over the river.

The next day in the morning, we walked around Kues and Wilfried showed us the houses our ancestors had lived in at various times in Kues going back over 300 years. Quite amazing for these Californians!

This is a view of the church cemetery where many Hangauers are buried. The hills in the background are actually on the other side of the river. If you look carefully, you can see Burg Landshut, also across the river.

After our walk, we piled into the car and headed out for the only undamaged castle in the valley at Burg Eltz. It survived the French occupation of Napoleon’s time by being hidden in a valley rather than on a hilltop. Despite Wilfried’s GPS, we had a hard time locating it and it was almost 5 pm when we finally got there. It all worked out fine: we still got a tour and a look around before it closed and we had more stories to tell.

Rather than driving straight to Burg Eltz, which is not in the Mosel valley, we had asked Wilfried to go on the river road. This took longer, especially as we were inspired to stop a couple of times to admire the view. As the day went on and getting to Burg Eltz before closing became a possibility, we took to articulating our philosophy: ‘The plan is . . . there is no plan!’

We stopped to walk up to the Youth Hostel on Marienburg to look over the village of Punderlich:

We stopped at Beilstein to take the ferry across the river for lunch under the shadow of Metternich’s birth place.

Finally, Burg Eltz (photo by Wilfried).

So, the plan that wasn’t a plan worked out great. Speaking for myself, I couldn’t have asked for better traveling companions. Although Wilfried had seen it all before, he had an easy going approach that allowed us to follow our curiosity perfectly.

travel

Well, my last big travel of the year is upon me. Well, I hope it’s my last big travel. I’m still harboring hopes of getting back up to Washington. Compared to going to Europe or driving with Jeremy across the US, that’s not big. I’ve finally gotten serious and started to pack my bag.

It’ll be two weeks in Germany, with the highlight being celebrating the 100th birthday of my cousin Leni Hangauer. Mary Beth and I will be flying to Frankfurt, where Leni’s son Wilfried will pick us up and take us to the little town outside of Bonn where Leni lives with her daughter Marlies. Besides the birthday party, we’ll be checking out the sights nearby in Bonn, Cologne and possibly Aachen. Then a trip up the Mosel River to the ancestral home in Bernkastel (actually Kues across the river). I’m hoping to fit in a look at the Roman baths at Trier.

Then across to Munich, where Wilfried’s son Andreas lives. We’ll sightsee in Munich – and possibly hoist a brew – with a side trip to Mad Ludwig’s castle at Neuschwanstein. A couple of days of that, then back west to Wilfried and Elisabeth’s home near Baden Baden on the edge of the Black Forest..

Somewhere in there we will see Mary’s favorite group, Sistergold, in concert. Mary wants to drive fast on the Autobahn and we haven’t decided how we are getting to and from all these places yet. Wilfried will be driving us sometimes. Maybe he will let Mary drive his car!

I’ll have my camera and will keep a paper journal. I’ll try to log on and put up some travel notes as we go. Wish us luck!

trip planning

I’m starting to get serious about my upcoming trip to Germany. I talked to Mary yesterday and we agreed to talk tonight when we’re both able to concentrate better. (She was driving home and I was at Mom’s.)

Today I picked up a Michelin guide to Germany at the library and brought it home. I didn’t check the due date but it may be that I could just take it with me . . . Don’t lose it! There are lots of interesting things to do there. I was sort of blasé about it before but now that I’ve looked at the book, I’ve got lots of ideas.

Bernkastel and the Mosel River valley are no brainers. I always wanted to go back to Trier which is at the west end of the valley. Leni’s party is near Bonn so Beethoven’s birthplace is right there. The Rhine River valley south from Bonn is beautiful. The cathedral at Cologne is a must. There’s a wonderful Roman-German Museum right nest to the dom. I’d love to be able to go back to Aachen and see the throne of Karl der Grosse again. Wilfried and Elisabeth are near Baden Baden so that is a must.

Mary wants to see Neuschwanstein so that is near Munich where Andreas and Luisa live. I’d love to be able to show Mary the upper Rhine valley from Freiburg to Lake Constance.

Mary wants to go fast on the autobahn but I’m not sure how or where it would work to do this. We’ll consult with Wilfried. He and Elisabeth will be picking us up in Frankfurt and it’s a 2 hour drive to Bonn. Maybe he’ll let Mary drive for a bit! I believe they are joining us for the Sistergold concert which is 3 hours from their home. That will likely be a drive too.

Lots to think about!